You would know that your sympathy must lie with the stoic, no-nonsense hero; that you must turn a fond, fatherly eye on the heroine, and laugh at the antics of the bumbling fool. And, also summon up intense loathing for the burly (sometimes badly disfigured) villain.
They flash on screen almost every minute, these little hints. So even if you are an hour late, there’s not much that you might have missed. Nothing crucial to the plot, anyway. And that’s precisely why these movies made great Sunday afternoon watches across several living rooms in the ‘90s. When a lazy eye on the proceedings is all that one could muster. When the sheer predictability of a surprise – as oxymoronic as that sounds – was what the audience banked on.
Undemanding, easy entertainment.
Aranmanai is no different. It’s a horror story, we are told without preamble. Starting quite obviously with the font in which the credits roll. Red against black. It makes no pretense of being anything else. There’s not much effort that goes into fashioning a scene anyway, no canny crafting; there’s a shadow, a whisper, a rustle of cloth – and a hooded, hairy apparition materializes from nowhere.
As simple as that.
And in that instant when you recoil in horror, never mind what came before, or what comes after, Sundar C is satisfied. Aranmanai brims with moments like these; switching between horror and comedy without much thought. A story is conveniently woven into this fabric of comedy (courtesy Santhanam, when not offensive) and fright; moments of horror set to a rising crescendo, with a “surprise” at the end for good measure.
For the most part though, Aranmanai is Chandramukhi in a different garb. A tale woven around women, love, revenge, desire, and earth-shattering solar eclipses. With reliable horror motifs to boot: a haunted bungalow, red embers of light, cobwebs, a huge snake pit that spews blood, the works.
But where we do get a glimpse of the director (apart from his character on screen) though, are in the female leads. They are quintessentially Sundar C. Andrea Jeremiah is Madhavi, the demure wife who visits the bungalow – modestly clothed for the most part, succumbing to those conservative tropes about marriage; Raai Laxmi as Maya, whose glamorous work-out sessions are made much of, replete with a sexist Santhanam snark or two, and Hansika Motwani. Hansika Motwani, as Selvi, the embodiment of the famous line from the William Congreve play, The Mourning Bride – Hell hath no fury… – much in sync with the “big reveal” that the director springs on us later.
And nowhere in those 160 minutes, do we find ourselves questioning those little irregularities on screen.
Sundar C knows his audience well, and if you’re not part of his audience, then that’s just quite unfortunate. Really.
PS: “U/A – Parental Guidance”? For a movie clearly filled with adult humour?
The Aranmanai Review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have an advertising relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.